Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle with the Torahby Roger Bennett
Announcing a smart, daring, original new take on the Torah. Imagine: 54 leading young Jewish writers, artists, photographers, screenwriters, architects, actors, musicians, and graphic artists grappling with the first five books of the Bible and giving new meaning to the 54 Torah portions that are traditionally read over the course of a year. From the foundational… See more details below
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Announcing a smart, daring, original new take on the Torah. Imagine: 54 leading young Jewish writers, artists, photographers, screenwriters, architects, actors, musicians, and graphic artists grappling with the first five books of the Bible and giving new meaning to the 54 Torah portions that are traditionally read over the course of a year. From the foundational stories of Genesis and Exodus to the legalistic minutiae of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Unscrolled is a reinterpreting, a reimagining, a creative and eclectic celebration of the Jewish Bible.
Here’s a graphic-novel version of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, by Rebecca Odes and Sam Lipsyte. Lost creator Damon Lindelof writing about Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son. Here’s Sloane Crosley bringing Pharaoh into the 21st century, where he’s checking out “boils,” “lice,” and “plague of frogs” on WebMD. Plus there’s Joshua Foer, Aimee Bender, A. J. Jacobs, David Auburn, Jill Soloway, Ben Greenman, Josh Radnor, Adam Mansbach, and more.
Edited by Roger Bennett, a founder of Reboot, a network of young Jewish creatives and intellectuals, Unscrolled is a gathering of brilliant, diverse voices that will speak to anyone interested in Jewish thought and identity—and, with its singular design and use of color throughout, the perfect bar and bat mitzvah gift. First it presents a synopsis of the Torah portion, written by Bennett, and then the story is reinterpreted, in forms that range from the aforementioned graphic novel to transcripts, stories, poems, memoirs, letters, plays, infographics, monologues—each designed to give the reader a fresh new take on some of the oldest, wisest, and occasionally weirdest stories of the Western world, while inspiring new ideas about the Bible and its meaning, value, and place in our lives.
“[The contributors] bring a modern sensibility and playful edge to the biblical text . . . Their new readings will inspire new insight, new meanings, new light.”
Some young writers and artists offer, to varying effect, their original takes on traditional study of the Hebrew Bible. The Torah, the Jewish Holy Scripture, is composed of The Five Books of Moses. It is divided into 54 segments from Genesis through Deuteronomy; for millennia, it has been read in sequence and studied assiduously each week of the Jewish calendar. That continuing scholarship is fundamental to the religion in all its forms. Bennett, the co-founder of the Jewish organization Reboot, enlists 54 writers, most with day jobs in the media/showbiz world, for comment on each particular portion. "Consider this...as a book of unorthodox Divrei Torah," he writes, "offered up in the spirit of the rabbinical assertion that there are infinite interpretations of the Torah and that everyone who stood at Mount Sinai saw a 'different face' of the text." Unfortunately, the exercise in casual exegesis doesn't equal the sum of its parts. The amateur theologians, undeniably talented in other venues, demonstrate that biblical hermeneutics is a special calling, one not usually using sophomoric shtick, no matter how sincere. Each portion begins with a summary of the original narrative--most entertaining, perhaps, for newcomers to the Old Testament--followed by contributions of short stories, dramas, comedies, graphic novellas, poems, monologues, photos, memoirs, riffs, takes and bits. The humor often comes in the format of a script for a show unlikely to be seen anywhere. Certainly, there are a few short stories that might stand alone and some heartfelt kernels in all the chaff. But what may be aimed at a market for lightweight gift books contains scant insight and less teaching. Among others, some of the big-name contributors include Aimee Bender, Rebecca Dana, Joshua Foer, Adam Mansbach, Sloane Crosley, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Greenman, A.J. Jacobs and Dana Shapiro. Sketchy Bible study with a self-indulgent, frisky class.
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What People are saying about this
"There's no greater challenge and thrill than grappling with the first five books of the Bible. Whether you read the stories as sacred texts or literature, for moral guidance or entertainment, they are life-changing. The energy and thought behind the commentaries contained in Unscrolled are contagious. You will find yourself wanting to begin again at the beginning of everything."
–Jonathan Safran Foer
“An ideal gift for anyone looking to hear a very old text in a very new voice, giving permission to wrestle, to reimagine, to reject, to love, to stand in awe, and to be surprised.”
–Rabbi Sharon Brous, Founder, IKAR, Los Angeles
Meet the Author
Reboot is a national network of young, creative Jews founded on the belief that every generation must grapple with the questions of identity, community, and meaning on its own terms. Reboot has created over 100 projects, including the National Day of Unplugging; the international architecture contest Sukkah City; and the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, a record label and archive dedicated to tracking down lost Jewish music and the musicians who created it. Roger Bennett, writer, broadcaster, and cofounder of Reboot, is the author of several books, including Bar Mitzvah Disco. He lives with his family in New York City.
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